Metalmance Top 20 Albums of 2017

Our hottest albums of 2017…beware…there’s a turkey in there…

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No. 20  THE ROYAL – Seven

The Royal

Metalmance have mentioned THE ROYAL a lot this year, and once again they feature in one of our posts. This time they kick off our Top 20 albums of the year list! In a scene which is becoming overwhelmingly full with bland groups and so-so tech, these Dutchman are slowly but surely gaining a reputation for themselves as a talented and promising metal act. Seven sees THE ROYAL gain confidence and the nurturing of a signature sound. Once the band finally have a firm footing in the metal world, who knows how high they could climb?

“A seriously blinding effort, Seven will hopefully propel THE ROYAL to the forefront of the burgeoning scene.”

The Royal – Seven

 

No. 19  EMPLOYED TO SERVE – The Warmth of a Dying Sun

Employed to Serve

One of 2017’s breakthrough bands, Britain’s own EMPLOYED TO SERVE rightly deserve all the attention they’ve been receiving this year. Their sophomore release The Warmth of a Dying Sun is proof they are worthy of your time. With a gloriously sludgy, nu-metal-ish, heavy hardcore energy, they throw together old and new influences into a melting pot of riffy joy. If new kids CODE ORANGE and OATHBREAKER were bred with old daddies WILL HAVEN and BOTCH, then you will more than likely achieve the perfection of EMPLOYED TO SERVE. These are the new masters of British forward-thinking metal.

 

No. 18  NORDIC GIANTS – Amplify Human Vibration

Nordic Giants

Since Metalmance first discovered the intriguing and mysterious NORDIC GIANTS last year, we’ve been utterly in love. You can’t treat Amplify Human Vibration as a continuation of A Séance of Dark Delusions however, no, no, it is a much deeper and a more thought-provoking affair than that. Predominantly using spoken word samples to accompany the duo’s stunning soundscapes, Amplify Human Vibration is about re-awakening the human spirit, to realise our true potential as a power together on this planet. The songs do summon some kind of deep inner-awareness, a feat which not all of NORDIC GIANTS’ peers and contemporaries would be able to accomplish.

“Their last album released in 2015 A Séance of Dark Delusions is a truly spellbinding record, with each listen exposing something missed before.”

Weekly Roundup #9

 

No. 17  VIPASSI – Sunyata

Vipassi

This instrumental effort from the progressive metal supergroup VIPASSI unfortunately seems to have slipped under the carpet a bit this year. Hopefully this could mean Sunyata could become a sleeper hit in the prog metal world. A sprawling mass of complex rhythms, heavenly bass and stunning soundscapes, VIPPASSI have created a blackened beast of complexity. All tracks seem to merge into one, allowing the listener to be transported to a progressive paradise. More please.

“With only seven tracks, Sunyata feels a bit like a tease, a bit like a punishing starter before a main course. Go on, indulge.”

Weekly Roundup #18

 

No. 16  CODE ORANGE – Forever

Code Orange

This year has certainly been the year of CODE ORANGE. At the end of 2016 they were threatening the world with something special, then in January they dropped Forever, and the rest is history. Dark, disturbing, modern and unpredictable – their energy is infectious. Their arrogant swagger in the scene make them an unstoppable and untouchable force. In our Weekly Roundup #8, Metalmance said they were a band to watch. We weren’t wrong. Will you join forces with them? Or be part of the wreckage they’ll leave behind?

“If the band are able to maintain this rawness then the future of hardcore is bright, the future is CODE ORANGE.”

Weekly Roundup #8

 

No. 15  LEPROUS – Malina

Leprous

Back in 2016, Metalmance hailed the Norwegian progsters as a band to watch, and rolling off the back of 2015’s The Congregation and this year’s Malina, the band have been growing from strength to strength. Malina sees the band stretching the term ‘progressive metal’, with their stupidly catchy and melodic songs, the band seem to be veering towards a lighter approach. They have always been good songwriters but with Malina, LEPROUS finally seem to have hit the nail on the head. One of our qualms with The Congregation was the songs didn’t know really when to get going or where to end, but Malina is far more of an enjoyable and rewarding listen.

“There’s no denying LEPROUS add their own twist to proceedings and really push themselves to the front of the melodic metal pack.”

Weekly Roundup #3

 

No. 14  NORTHLANE – Mesmer

Northlane

Remember earlier in the year when NORTHLANE shouted ‘SURPRISE!!!’ and dropped Mesmer with no warning? Well it certainly paid off as it got people talking. And for good reason! Mesmer is easily the most focused and accomplished work by NORTHLANE to date. Savage, yet emotionally heavy, the feels the listener experiences during the Mesmer sonic experience is plenty. Each member has improved as a serious musician and the sound created is a mature one, with oodles of depth. Heart-felt songs which still drop hard, NORTHLANE seemed to have mastered the knack of combining emotion and heaviness.

 

No. 13  ENTHEOS – Dark Future

Entheos

A bit more of a progressive affair than previous album The Infinite Nothing, ENTHEOS are definitely gaining momentum as their own entity rather than some sort of supergroup (with ex members of ANIMALS AS LEADERS and THE FACELESS). Vocalist Chaney Crabb once again proves she is a force to reckon with because of her impressive performance and aggression. Hopefully in 2018 Chaney will gain more recognition as one of extreme metal’s finest vocalists. Dark Future isn’t an album you can absorb and process in one listen, its complex design and dynamics each come into their own individually after numerous listens. This is one album we will still be exploring into the new year.

 

No. 12  IGORRR – Savage Sinusoid

Igorrr

You either love this intriguing French group, or they leave you thinking what on earth??? Metalmance is the former and we witnessed them live at Tech Fest and were very glad to find this eclectic troupe were just as weird and as intense live as they are on record. One of the amazing aspects of the band and the album is the ‘samples’, each individual part is played and recorded which gives Savage Sinusoid an impressive depth. Full of heavy, yet charming tracks, the classical vocals sit surprisingly well among the more, er, primal screaming. And if we ran an award for best album opener of the year, we’d sure as hell choose Viande.

 

No. 11  GHOST IRIS – Blind World

Ghost Iris

As soon as these techy Danes released their catchy single Save Yourself back in February, Metalmance have been hooked. They released Blind World a week later and it is still on heavy rotation even now in December. A more focused effort than their previous releases, they seem to have their fingers well on the pulse of European tech metal. The album boasts tracks which are upbeat, heavy, melodic, yet deceivingly complex. GHOST IRIS really seem to have finally found their sound, and it’s a winning formula. Each song is a standout track, making Blind World an album you can happily listen to all the way through and return to again and again. Trust us, you won’t get bored.

“An album which keeps you on your toes yet constantly brings the fun, Blind World is sure to launch GHOST IRIS into the tech metal stratosphere.”

Weekly Roundup #19

 

No. 10  MUTATION – Dark Black

Mutation

In a time of super slick production and programming overload, it’s refreshing to hear something with a bit more of a raw approach (oo-er!) in the form of MUTATION’s Dark Black. With an organic and nostalgic feel, Dark Black has been one of 2017’s surprises. A thoroughly enjoyable and chaotic listen, you can read more about the band and the making of the album (which also features the one and only, DEVIN TOWNSEND) in our recent interview with Scott Lee Andrews from MUTATION.

“Both of us wanted to one-up each other in terms of how far/fucked up to go, and neither of us said ‘That’s too far’.” – Scott Lee Andrews

Q&A with Mutation

 

No. 9  CALIGULA’S HORSE – In Contact

Caligula's Horse

You may remember we featured CALIGULA’S HORSE in our Prog Down Under feature last year (which reminds us, we never did finish a second part) and 2017 saw these Aussie chaps release the breath-taking In Contact. From the stunning opener Dream the Dead to the sax-fuelled epic Graves, this is without a doubt CALIGULA’S HORSE finest work to date. Heavier than anticipated, In Contact also charms with the delicate compositions and expertly executed flourishes. Jim Grey once again impresses with his distinct voice and lyrical magic. Expect big things in 2018.

“No two songs sound the same, with CALIGULA’S HORSE mixing up the styles; a hint of folk here, a little indie there, but it’s all wrapped up in their own brand of infectious melodic prog.”

Prog Down Under Part 1

 

No. 8  ALLUVIAL – The Deep Longing for Annihilation

Alluvial

At the very beginning of 2017, we were spoilt immediately with the release of The Deep Longing for Annihilation, the instrumental masterpiece by metal greats, Keith Merrow and Wes Hauch. If you remember BLACK CROWN INITIATE were our album of the year last year, then you can understand why we were thrilled to begin our year with ALLUVIAL. Dark and brooding, the album hones both Merrow and Hauch’s signature styles, so much so they raised the bar so high for other instrumental albums this year.

“Imagine BLACK CROWN INITIATE, DECAPITATED and GOJIRA all rolled into one. This album is proof progressive metal does not necessarily need vocals to make it heavier.”

Weekly Roundup #14

 

No. 7  LOATHE – The Cold Sun

Loathe

One of the darker albums featured on our list this year – The Cold Sun has the same atmosphere as its namesake. A deep, stunning, yet unpredictable slab of British tech metal, this album is proof of why you should be paying attention to LOATHE. Astonishingly heavy, yet fiendishly melodic in places, they throw all sorts of extreme elements into the pot; the blackened influences, the instrumentals and the electronic/orchestral parts all pay off massively. Each listen unveils new layers you were unaware of before, and that demonstrates a maturity and love for the craft which will hopefully keep them ahead of the pack.

 

No. 6  EMMURE – Look At Yourself

Emmure

Look At Yourself indeed. Who would have known you would become an EMMURE fan in 2017? Metalmance in all honesty never really gave EMMURE the time of day, but after the announcement that members of GLASS CLOUD and TONY DANZA TAPDANCE EXTRAVAGANZA were joining the ranks, curiosity got the better of us and we’re very glad it did! Look At Yourself is the aural equivalent of ejecting bile and defecating over your enemies. The album is one of the heaviest featured on our list this year. If we gave an award for heaviest track of the year, then Natural Born Killer would win hands down.

 

No. 5  WITHOUT WAVES – Lunar

Without Waves

Earlier in the year, Metalmance labelled WITHOUT WAVES as a band to watch and once their album Lunar was released, we stood by our decision. Listening back to it now, the diversity and variety of genres the band squeeze into their song writing is still mind-blowing; progressive metal, grunge elements, some post-rock tinkles, lots of nostalgic sounds in the same vein as CAVE IN and Say Hello To Sunshine-era FINCH. Yet, somehow WITHOUT WAVES stamp all over these styles with their own sound. How these chaps haven’t blown up in the scene yet is one of 2017’s greatest musical mysteries.

“Anthony Cwan’s vocals really come to light here, his mesmerising voice runs the risk of being contemporary metal’s most alluring warble.”

Weekly Roundup #17

 

No. 4  DEATH FROM ABOVE – Outrage! Is Now

Death From Above

Metalmance are so, so happy DEATH FROM ABOVE are back on top form as we were massive fans of 2004’s You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, but Outrage! Is Now has completely surpassed all expectations. The Canadian duo deliciously create bass and drum fuelled rock, yet the music they produce is heavy in its own way. Addictive, with a punk energy, Outrage! boasts an impressive array of irresistible riffs, beats and croons. DEATH FROM ABOVE have always had a mainstream sound, sounding a bit like JACK WHITE and MUSE here and there, but with Outrage! the band sound like they are confident in themselves and finally ready to take over the world.

 

No. 3  THE RASMUS – Dark Matters

The Rasmus

You’re probably disgusted by our choice for the no. 3 spot, but bear with us. We all have that one band who were our gateway into rock and metal, it just so happens our feathery friends THE RASMUS were ours. Dark Matters manages to achieve a similar atmosphere to 2004’s Dead Letters, and we can’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic. It’s a much poppier affair than their more recent releases, but we would be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit it’s one of our favourites this year. Still full of catchy choruses and a healthy dollop of European cheese, we almost feel compelled to dig out our old wristbands, beanies and crow feathers, but we’re respectable adults now so we’ve managed to refrain…ahem…

 

No. 2  EIGHTEEN VISIONS – XVIII

XVIII

The biggest surprise of the year was the news that our metalcore heroes EIGHTEEN VISIONS had reformed AND were releasing a new album after ten years apart. We thought our 2017 couldn’t get any better than that…until we heard the actual album that is. It was everything old school EIGHTEEN VISIONS fans could ever dream of. Harking back to their glory days, XVIII is an incredible gift to the metal community and tribute to the late Mick Morris who played bass in their heyday. They’ve borrowed elements from their most popular albums; Until The Ink Runs Out, Vanity and Obsession, and have created a fresh new sound with subtle nostalgia. We hope they’re back for good.

“…there’s no doubt about it, EIGHTEEN VISIONS are back and ready to rejuvenate the metalcore scene again. Welcome back chaps.”

Eighteen Visions – XVIII

 

No. 1  DYSCARNATE – With All Their Might

Dyscarnate

We threatened back in August that With All Their Might could end up being our album of the year – and it bloody well is! No other album this year has been better in our eyes. An absolute corker of a beast, DYSCARNATE are a stupidly talented trio who know how to the bring the groove and the brutality. We don’t think we’ve heard any riffs this year which top what can be heard on With All Their Might. This album has WINNER stamped all over it and we seriously cannot wait to hear the songs live. Congratulations DYSCARNATE!

“If With All Their Might doesn’t cement DYSCARNATE as Britain’s heavyweight heroes then we might just have to crack our skulls in disgust. With their no-nonsense attitude, DYSCARNATE will have you gagging to join their ranks.”

Dyscarnate – With All Their Might

Tech Fest 2017

6 Jul – 7 Jul 2017. Newark Showground.

THURSDAY

A small festival filled with technical metal bands, death metal and progressive metal? Yes please. Add to that the tight-knit tech community of people from all around the world, heavenly pizza, and tiny pancakes and you have a stellar weekend on your hands.

Thursday was the early bird day, with CHELSEA GRIN headlining. However, with Metalmance participating in camping shenanigans and being flooded out by rain of biblical proportions, there was only time to see THE ROYAL in the afternoon. Last time Metalmance saw these Dutch metalcore chaps, was in Boston Music Rooms supporting DREAMSHADE in March. Back then the band managed to stir up the crowd with their jumping-inducing tunes, and at Tech Fest it was no different, just on a bigger scale. Playing material from albums Dreamcatchers and their newest release, Seven, the band certainly won new fans over with their energetic set.

 

FRIDAY

Kicking off the weekend proper were London prog darlings FRAKTIONS. Metalmance recently had the pleasure of witnessing the band in Bristol supporting DEITIES, but their Tech Fest set was on another level. The group had brought their A-game, with vocalist Joel Pinder leading the performance with every vocal spot on. It was great to see a big turn out for the first band of the day and it’s clear to see how firmly wedged in the tech fam hearts FRAKTIONS are. If Tech Festers weren’t warmed up already, then they most certainly were after Kaan Tasan of NO CONSEQUENCE made a guest appearance. An impressive start to the festival by one of Britain’s promising progressive hopes.

Metalmance caught the second half of DREWSIF STALIN’S MUSICAL ENDEAVOURS and it was exactly as expected; fun, bordering on chaos with the man himself commanding the stage along with vocalist, Lee making a damn fine effort.

VALIS ABLAZE were up next on the Gigantic Stage. A solid set, the band were clearly well rehearsed, with material from latest EP Insularity shimmering amongst the setlist. Vocalist Phil Owen hits every note while guitarist Tom Moore steals the hearts with his evident joy of being there, demanding the most attention by performing on a front speaker. That is until the guest appearance of Drewsif Stalin (the producer of Insularity) stealing the focus away. Ending the set in high spirits and to a great response, it’s wonderful to see this talented band starting to receive the recognition they deserve.

Metalmance Valis Ablaze

From VALIS ABLAZE’s melodic progressive metal to something quite different, Metalmance entered the main arena to the irresistible riffy ruckus of British death metallers DYSCARNATE. Having never encountered the band before it’s safe to say the brutal trio ended up being one of Metalmance’s highlights of the festival. No nonsense, straight to your face, no gimmicks, the band deliver their material at 100mph. They treated their fans to a few new tracks from their forthcoming album. These songs have a blackened tinge to them, making the next release one of the most hotly anticipated of the year for us.

Deathcore masters MARTYR DEFILED deliver a polished set which loses none of its impressive intensity. This British lot have been touring for well over 5 years now, their ease at playing a ferocious show is evident. One of the veterans of the British scene and should remain so.

In a drunken haze, Metalmance caught bits of WITHIN DESTRUCTION and VIRVUM, both on the gigantic stage. Both very heavy. Heavy is the word which came to mind…

By the time the evening rolled round, everyone was buzzing for the headliners THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, but beforehand we all got warmed up with an absolute pummelling from the legendary ABORTED. Intense, disgustingly heavy and incredibly tight, the pioneers of Belgian deathgrind delighted the crowd with their impressive stage presence and set up. Skeletons graced the stage, backlit by eerie lighting. This, coupled with frontman Sven De Caluwe pacing up and down the platform and the technical instrumentation, all contributed to arguably one of the tightest sets of the whole weekend.

It was always going to be a challenging job to top ABORTED’s flawless set, but who better for the job than THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER? Their live reputation is well known, a stupidly tight and professional band, TBDM have always moved from strength to strength. Performing material spanning across their whole back catalogue, from Unhallowed to Abysmal, every song went down a treat with their fans. Of course, this year signals 10 years since the release of classic album Nocturnal, so several tracks were played tonight, including the fan favourite What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse, in preparation for their forthcoming tour playing the album in full. Feeding off the crowd’s enthusiasm, the band were clearly in high spirits and knocking out tune after tune. Frontman Trevor Strnad grabbed the inflatable banana which was being crowd surfed to the front. This bode the start of what would become a legendary year for inflatables at Tech Fest… Heads banging, pits, cheers and smiles all round were the result of TBDM’s set. You can’t help but to be left feeling impressed and upbeat once the band have rolled into town. A hard act to follow, the bar was set for the remainder of the weekend.

The Royal – Seven

Label: Long Branch Records. Release Date: 31 March 2017.

Since releasing their debut album Dreamcatchers in 2014, THE ROYAL have slowly been causing a stir in the European metalcore scene, and now hopefully with the band’s first label release Seven through Long Branch Records, this group of promising Dutchmen are set to take the scene by storm. Seven continues where Dreamcatchers left off, but things sound a lot sharper, more structured, and vocalist Sem Pisarahu has definitely found his vocal niche with this release.

To kick off proceedings, Thunder storms in with riffs galore, and soon enough we’re back amongst THE ROYAL’s safe clutches. With this opening track, the band’s confidence oozes through the speakers, with bold tones and an urgent presence, the song soon gives way to one of the album’s highlights, Feeding Wolves. Featuring Carlo Knöpfel of BREAKDOWN OF SANITY this song features a lot of exciting elements; elegant riffs which soon erupt into a crushing mass of tech riffery and catchy lines which are destined to be firm favourites for fans to shout along to. Unapologetically heavy, yet diverse enough to remain interesting, this track sets the milestone for the remainder of the album.

The third track, single, Wildmind maintains the band’s infectious energy and features one of the album’s most memorable riffs. It is becoming apparent THE ROYAL are definitely ones to watch, with their mix of a bruising foundation, topped by piercing guitars and crushing vocals. This variety is worked to create an interesting and unpredictable bag of metalcore. Creeds and Vultures surprises the ear with tech riffs that border on the djent, along with an unexpected acoustic middle-eight and a triumphant outro. A truly impressive track in terms of seamlessly mixing all these components together, THE ROYAL confidently demonstrate they are still unfazed by including acoustic and orchestral parts, as any fan of the debut album would be familiar with.

This continues with the piano opening of Counterculture, the second single taken from Seven. With a desperate message, the band storm their way through the song, once again with killer riffs and a hardcore attitude of camaraderie. A thought provoking song about the state of the world, this message has time to sink in during the album’s atmospheric interlude, appropriately named…Interlude. This is soon interrupted with the whirring riff of the title track, which is an example of the band’s leaning towards the more tech side of metal.

Life Breaker and Thalassa are chock-full of tech influences, with both songs of course containing signature killer riffs, you can just assume by this point that the remainder of the songs will also plentiful in the riffage department. Indeed, closer Viridian needs something special to offer to put the tech metal cherry on top of THE ROYAL’s metalcore cake. And it certainly delivers; a fast-paced, energetic number, it is the perfect counterpart to Thunder, nicely sandwiching all the riffs and screams between two solid tracks of THE ROYAL goodness.

A seriously blinding effort, Seven will hopefully propel THE ROYAL to the forefront of the burgeoning scene. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for this promising lot and how the band evolves for future releases.

 

Dreamshade + The Royal

Boston Music Room, London. 26 March 2017.

There was quite a lot of hype surrounding tonight. DREAMSHADE had finally made it to the UK and this was their first ever London show. DREAMSHADE fans are a fiercely loyal bunch and this small community had found its way to Boston Music Room to give the Swiss metalcore band the warm welcome they deserved.

Getting to the venue just as THE ROYAL kicked into their set, these rising stars of Dutch metalcore were pulling out all the stops, making it impossible to tear your eyes away to get to the bar. Frontman Sem Pisarahu commanded the crowd’s attention with his ferocious delivery and infectious energy. The rest of the band were also on fine form, jumping in time with a hardcore punk attitude. Fella from DREAMSHADE jumped on stage for guest vocals which really got the room  moving. Winning over new fans tonight with their absolutely tight delivery, THE ROYAL will no doubt cause a bigger stir in the scene. Be sure to check them out at Tech Fest in July!

Keeping the energy up by opening with the storming It’s Over, DREAMSHADE fed off their fan’s vibrancy (pun intended) and in return put on a performance worthy of a venue triple its size. Mostly playing tracks from last year’s Vibrant, the modest crowd shouted back every word, clearly pleasing the band as there were smiles all round for the remainder of the night. Playing old gems like Photographs and Consumed Future really sent the crowd into a frenzy, but London was in for one heck of a treat. Before erupting into Wide Awake, former vocalist Iko joined the band on stage, sending old fans into meltdown. DREAMSHADE were always teasing something special for London, but no one could have predicted jumping along to both Iko and current vocalist Kevin Calì sharing vocals. Newer tunes still went down well with Dreamers Don’t Sleep and Autumn Leaves having the loudest crowd sing-alongs. The band sounded just as good live as they do on record, oozing talent and professionalism yet still bringing the fun by joining the crowd and rocking out with us. Tonight was one of those nights when everyone looked super chuffed after the set. Every person in the room was in high spirits and the band stuck around to chat and take photos, clearly appreciating their fans, some of whom had travelled many miles to catch their first London show. It had been worth it, a very special night indeed.